Court hears final arguments
on Silver Valley billboards

May 25, 2013

Superior Court hears final arguments on 6 year old case.

      California Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville held a hearing in his San Bernardino Department 36 courtroom on Friday, May 24, 2013 for final oral arguments by opposing attorneys on the legality of county issued permits for billboards along Interstate-15 and Interstate-40 in the Silver Valley.

      The billboard permits were acquired by General Outdoor Advertising in 2006 after principal owner and operator, Tim Lynch, followed his brother Spike Lynch's recommendation to seek placement of large double-sided billboards within the Silver Valley.  The acquisition of the permits however took many years and multiple applications.

      The billboard sites originally contained restrictions that prevented billboard companies from applying for permits.  Restrictions included improper zoning for billboards, a Scenic Highway designation along Interstate-15, and Interstate-40 being covered by Lady Bird Johnson's federal Highway Beautification Act that prohibits billboards.

      Spike Lynch, a resident of Newberry Springs, however felt that he could acquire local political support to have the county Board of Supervisors grant the necessary permits so that he could bring home the bacon.

      In a sworn deposition on September 19, 2011, Tim Lynch states that over the years of billboard applications for the Silver Valley, he personally conducted billboard promotional visits with county First District supervisors Kathy Davis, later Marsha Turochi, and still later Bill Postmus.  Apparently this was to influence billboard acceptance by county department heads who were initially turning the applications down.

Spike Lynch
Spike Lynch

      The effort took years but suddenly the prized Scenic Highway designation on I-15 was mysteriously and quietly removed.  Spike Lynch achieved a split in the community's opposition by offering controversial bribe promises of sharing billboard revenue with community groups that supported his billboard plan.  Then there was the billboard spot zoning, illegal under Billboard Law, that was granted by the county Board of Supervisors after campaign contributions to Bill Postmus that totaled thousands of dollars.

      The Superior Court case was filed by Newberry Springs real estate broker Fred Stearn in October 2006; and with co-plaintiffs Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight and Harold and Ruth Krotz, the case has been represented by attorney Randal R. Morrison of San Diego, reputably the nation's leading billboard law expert.  The defendants, the County of San Bernardino and San Diego Outdoor Advertising, Inc. (General Outdoor Advertising as Real Party in Interest) have been principally represented by attorney Gary S. Mobley, of Huntington Beach, CA.

      Opening arguments on May 24 were made by plaintiffs' Randal Morrison who capsulized the plaintiffs' arguments by focusing the court's attention upon a single document contained in the Administrative Record, claiming that it represented the applicable law on the matter and that the county violated the law in issuing the permits.  Morrison's oral presentation was focused like a laser and was amazingly short for a case that has been lingering through the court system for six-and-a-half years.

      The defense countered with what appeared to be a well presented but off legal topic arguments that the county's spot billboard zoning was part of the county's general plan upgrade and that the involved communities fully supported the billboards and the sharing of revenue income.  Judge McCarville questioned Mobley as to whether commercial developments, even if conceived with good intent, could be done through a process that the defendants followed.  In having to make a ruling based upon the law, the judge clearly appeared to have a problem with the county's methodology in issuing the permits.

      The entire hearing took only 33 minutes.  There remains a good likelihood that however the court is persuaded to rule, the decision will be appealed by the losing side to the state Appellate Court.

      The Community Alliance continues to believe that the legal preponderance of evidence clearly weighs against the county's issuance of the billboard permits and that the anti-billboard plaintiffs will eventually prevail; through the upper courts if necessary.

      A portion of Mobley's pro-billboard argument did not appear to be based upon the law; but upon the economic benefits to the communities in the revenue sharing scheme.  As previously published in the Blotter as early as 2011, this was expected to be an argument presented before the court.  When the law doesn't support your position, you distract the fact by making positive, warm and cozy, feel-good statements.

      As long contended by the Blotter, the continued revenue sharing scheme after the issuance of the billboard permits, has been orchestrated for the court's consumption.  Spike Lynch and General Outdoor Advertising have not given any legally binding document that would guarantee that their promised revenue sharing would continue.  Spike Lynch has already reneged on the promised methodology of revenue sharing.

      No tentative decision has been issued by the court that announced that it would issue a written decision by June 10, 2013.

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